Newly Reviewed Irving Berlin's White Christmas First off, a correction. Three years ago when I reviewed the Muny staging of White Christmas, I suggested that the Forest Park staging suffered from a lack of technology that could enhance a proscenium offering; I was so sure that the indoor version would be a high-tech triumph of style over substance. But now that I've seen White Christmas at the Fox, I realize how wrong I was. Despite its glitter and gloss, this vapid adaptation of the 1954 movie Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye musical is an evening of numbing stupidity. The stage version drops what was best about the film and warps the rest. (Dean Jagger's fuzzy retired general is played by an actor who's about as warm as a Mickey Spillane impersonator.) The entire production looks cheap and tired. This is definitely not a White Christmas like the one you used to know. Performed through December 27 at the Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $35 to $82. Call 314-534-1678 or visit www.fabulousfox.com.
— Dennis Brown
Ongoing Black NativityLangston Hughes deemed Black Nativity his "gospel song play." Act One is all of those things, a soaring and gorgeous retelling of the birth of Christ that emphasizes the humanity of the people who witnessed the event. Director Ron Himes and musical director Diane White-Clayton mix American and African folk songs with traditional religious music (and one well-placed rap song) to fulfill Hughes' vision of a new, fully integrated black art form. Brilliant costuming by Reggie Ray and clockwork choreography by Keith Tyrone add visual punch to fantastic performances from Herman Gordon as the singing Joseph and the ethereal Heather Beal as the dancing Mary. Act Two has a modern gospel church setting, and while the performances are powerful and moving, the sense of story is minimal. While brimming with reverence and passionate singing, it lacks the narrative and inventiveness of the first half. That magnificent first act is more than worth the price of admission, however. Presented through December 27 (no performances on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day) by the Black Rep at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $30.50 to $43 ($5 discount for students and seniors; $10 rush seats available for students 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810 or visit www.theblackrep.org.
— Paul Friswold
A Christmas Story Taken from the endearing 1983 holiday movie about Ralphie's pursuit of a Red Ryder BB gun, A Christmas Story has been mugged by a pedestrian adaptation. The incessant voice-over that works so well onscreen becomes tedious onstage. Any similarity between the joyously anarchic spirit of the original motion picture and this stolid stage version is strictly coincidental. Not that it matters to theatergoers; the Rep can't sell the tickets fast enough. Produced by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis through December 27 at theLoretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves. Tickets are $18 to $68 (rush seats available for students and seniors, $10 and $15, respectively, 30 minutes before showtime). Call 314-968-4925 or visit www.repstl.org. (DB)